Every Tuesday, head coach Steve Lavin holds his weekly press conference in the Chancellor's Room of Pauley Pavillion. Immediately following, the players are subjected to the media down on Pauley's floor just prior to practice.
Last week, we decided to skip the press conference. Not because we weren't interested in what Coach Lavin had to say but because – with all respect to the coach - not much happens at these things. Beat writers who have to file something – anything – ask the same old questions and deserve the same old responses. Lavin, in fact, does a nice job of taking each question seriously, even though it's mostly the samo, samo. With the preseason optimism in full-effect, we decided to skip the platitudes and watch the women's team practice instead. Turns out not much happens there, either.
Down on the court, Mike Waldner of the Daily Breeze had first dibs on Dijon Thompson, considered a local guy from Redondo to Mike's South Bay readers. Chris Roberts and Don MacLean grabbed T.J. Cummings when he came out of the locker room, so your intrepid BRO reporter asked the student p.r. person for some on- on-one time with "anyone – the first guy you find."
Ced Bozeman drew the short straw.
On a team with very few answers, Bozeman, now a sophomore, still remains one of the questions, though the Bruins hope he'll make the shift from "Q" to "A" as soon as possible. Bozeman inherited the point guard position from Earl Watson, who took over from Baron Davis, both now in the NBA. In fact, Bozeman is heir to what has probably been the Bruins' greatest position of on-court strength over the last decade and a half as Pooh Richardson, Darrick Martin and Tyus Edney played point before Baron (in fact, since Pooh, the only UCLA point guard not to play pro was Cameron Dollar).
Unlike those that came before him, Bozeman is not a prototype point guard – whatever that means. At 6-6, he towers over most that play the position, and while he is smooth, he lacks the blinding quickness of an Edney or the amazing athleticism of a
Actually, most point guards do – but you get the point.
What he did possess as a high school All-American was a great feel for the game and a lead guard's mentality: "Distribute the ball, get everyone involved." He was handed the starting spot on the first day of practice as a freshman and faced the daunting task of proving himself to senior starters like Dan Gadzuric and Matt Barnes, as well as All-Conference forward Jason Kapono, who would rely on Ced's ability to get him shots.
Unfortunately, Bozeman injured his knee early in the season and missed a number of games. Though the Bruins kept winning in his absence, the missing reps were felt during the tough conference schedule that followed. It never became clear if the Bozeman we saw at the end of the season was the same Bozeman we would have seen if he had not been hurt.
That was only one of the questions we addressed when we spoke to him last Tuesday. Since we read the boards, we did attempt to raise some of the topics that get tossed around here.
BRO: This interview is for one of the fan web sites. Do you still want to do it?
This is for the web?
(Before he could walk away) Last year you were hurt right at the beginning of the season and missed a few games. The team did well while you were hurt and by the end of the season you were healthy. Still, a lot of people feel that you never quite got where you would have been had you not been hurt. What's your feeling on the injury and whether or not it stunted your development?
I'd say the injury was a big time set back … I think it did put me behind because I couldn't practice with the team and get a better feel for my teammates. That set me back. Then going towards the end of the season, I started getting my groove, started feeling healthy again. But you can't use that as an excuse.
Is there any doubt in your mind that point guard is your position? Or do you ever think you'd be better as an off guard, with a prototype, smaller quicker guy playing next to you?
No, I don't really look at it like that. I just like having the ball in my hands and wherever the coach has me, that's where I'm going to play. Point guard is what I like to play and that's where he has me and I'm just enjoying it.
What do you bring to the position? What are your strengths at the position? (Note: Given the softball questions we lobbed, we probably should refrain of accusing others of tossing out the platitudes. Not exactly 60 Minutes, is it?)
Being this height and being able to handle the ball and see over the defense, scoring, passing. Even defending the point guards, I've learned to adjust to that – use my size to my advantage.
[Note: "Stating the Obvious" alert] You guys lost a couple of NBA level players in Dan and Matt. You probably thought about this a lot and been asked this question a few times. What do you have to do to make up for the loss and what is the potential of this year's team?
We all have to collectively hit the boards. A lot of times we relied on Dan to grab every rebound and now we have to do it collectively. We're a long team, our guards are big, we can all pitch in and rebound. (Nothing confirmed, but it is possible that Ced has been reading the collected works of crgreen.)
Talk about some of the guys in the line-up with you like Jason and Dijon and T.J. (Note: Players just love it when you ask them to "talk about" something, instead of asking them a question.) You have to know their strengths and weaknesses, too (Note: Players love it even more when you tell them what they have to know … Sorry, Ced) and where they can be effective. (Note: Finally … an actual question.) Where do you like to get Jason the ball, where do you like to look for Jason or T.J?
For JK, anywhere behind the 3-point line is fine. All of them are capable of making plays. You just want to set them up where they can make those plays. They are all versatile, to tell you the truth. I've practiced with them the last couple of weeks (laughs as he recalls some practice highlights), they can all do some great things.
Just a couple of more questions. (Note: We probably say this about four more times during the interview. We don't remember why – maybe it was a nagging suspicion that Ced wasn't as fascinated with us as we were with him. To tell you the truth, he couldn't have been more polite.) One of the things that the guys who read the Internet a lot talk about (Note: Holy crap – Did we think that was a good opening line?) is how much is recruiting affected by things that people write on message boards. When you were being recruited, did you ever look at Internet sites about this school or other schools? Do you think (the Internet) ever gets into guys minds or is it not a big deal?
For me .. I mean … I really didn't pay attention to the Internet stuff. I think a lot of it has to do with what people have to say (to players being recruited). I think some (players) get bad information and really don't get to see a school for themselves. Honestly, I think that (choosing a school) is their own gut feeling and what a player truly wants to do.
Have you looked at the conference at all? Arizona looks pretty loaded. Other than Arizona, who do you think people should look out for?
I like us. Look out for us.
Just two or three more. (Note: LOL @ "just two or three more.".) Do you ever wish you could just be a student? Do you hang out with students who aren't players? What do you like about class? Movies? Girlfriends?
The thing I like about UCLA – everybody's nice. I haven't had any problems with anybody here – off the court people have been great. I have to say my college life so far has been good.
Do you think (your experience) is typical, though? Do people treat you differently?
At times you can see some stares. But that just comes with being a basketball player here at UCLA. Off the court, I'm just like everyone else, man. Just want to be part of everything the rest of the student body is doing. It's been cool.
Okay. Last question. (Note: We don't know who was happier, him or us. But to repeat, Ced was never less that patient with our bumbling.) If you were a scout...
Umm hmmm … ?
...for another team...
Uh huh … ?
...and you were writing a scouting report on Ced Bozeman, what would the scouting report say?
Don't guard me. Leave me open …
(Getting annoyed) C'mon …
Let me take some open shots. No, okay, umm....Very complete player. Likes to do a little bit of everything, get everybody involved. Score a little bit and just has fun out there.